Last week the Daily Mail went to town exposing the web of interests surrounding the UK’s Leveson Inquiry into media abuse: a network of interests so tangled that it took seven articles to describe . In particular it highlighted the role of senior advisor to the inquiry Sir David Bell who was also founder of Media Standards Trust, which spawned Hacked Off, the self-appointed public watch-dog to the inquiry. The Mail offensive was ridiculed by the Guardian, on the basis that there was no reason why all these people should not know each other and that for the most part the associations were not hidden. Plainly the Mail is very bothered by the shadow of a government body regulating media, but they ought to have looked harder at the function of Hacked Off.
Age of Autism’s experiences with approaching Hacked Off illustrates the dangers of all these incestuous relationships. Supposedly Hacked Off is there to hold the Leveson Inquiry to account, but what happens – as in our case – if the lobby organisation and the inquiry work together to bury our complaint about Brian Deer and the Sunday Times MMR investigation, which did so much to alter public perceptions of the vaccine. As we showed in our extensive reports both Lord Leveson and the inquiry’s lead attorney, Robert Jay, had previously been involved in denying MMR litigants’ claims. Meanwhile, a prominent adviser to Hacked Off was Evan Harris who had collaborated with Brian Deer on his original allegations against Andrew Wakefield. Harris, under pressure from AoA tried to distance himself from Deer, but the documentary record tells a completely different story.
And then it turned out that the boss of Media Standards Trust and Hacked Off, Martin Moore, sat on Department of Business committee to plot the future of science journalism with the Sunday Times editor who hired Brian Deer to investigate Andrew Wakefield, Paul Nuki who now runs the UK National Health Service’s main website and who was the son of a member Committee on Safety in Medicines when MMR was licensed (including GSK’s Pluserix, which was known at the time to be unsafe, and later was withdrawn in great haste by the manufacturer). Moreover, the chair of the committee was Fiona Fox whose Science Media Centre is funded by vaccine manufacturers, and who gave evidence against early press handling of the MMR affair at the hearing.
One thing that is exceedingly likely to happen is that inquiry will make recommendations about the reporting of vaccine safety concerns which had absolutely nothing to do with its original terms of reference. On the other hand it also looks all too likely that the great British government bureaucracy was on their guard about the MMR cover-up before the inquiry was ever announced, and was working flat out on what to do about it.
It was sickening to read today that Hacked Off was organising a meeting in preparation for the publication of Lord Leveson’s report before the end of the month between prominent victims of media abuse and party leaders, not of course because they are all undeserving cases but because they are being manipulated by people who most likely have quite different hidden agendas, and possibly do not care about anything much but the next free lunch. Apparently, when it comes to the vaccine programme it is alright to lie and distort, and to block anyone ever reporting the truth. It is a very interesting question what kind of public policy it is which needs that kind of protection.